FREDERICK WINSLOW TAYLOR
Frederick Winslow Taylor is known as the “father of scientific management.” Many of his theories are too autocratic for today’s workplace, but during the early years of the twentieth century, Taylor helped make factories more efficient and productive. His books were known around the world, and he became a symbol of America’s industrial power.
Taylor was born on March 20, 1856, in Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the second of three children. His father, Franklin, was a lawyer and a poet wh
Winslow Taylor family was puritanically disciplined, and his mother played the key role in his education work ethic. That is why Frederick became a man preoccupied with control. He had an obsessive-compulsive character and was driven by a relentless need to tie down and master almost evvvery aspect of his life. His activities at home, in the garden, and on the golf course, as well as at work were dominated by programs and schedules, planned in detail and rigidly followed. Even his afternoon walks were carefully laaaid out in advance. The obsession with order that was manifested later in Taylorism began when he was a child. Childhood friends described the meticulous “scientific” approach that he brought to their games. Before playing baseball he would insist that accurate measurements be made of the field, so that everyone would be in perfect relation. A game of croquet was a subject of careful analysis as Taylor worked out the angles of the various strokes, calculating the force of impact and the advantages and disadvantages of under stroke and over stroke. As an adolescent, before going to a dance, he made lists of the attractive and unattractive girls likely to be present, so that he would be sure to spend eqqqual time with each.
In 1872, after two years of schooling in France and Germany, followed by eighteen months of travel in Europe, he entered Phillips Exeter Academy at Exeter, N. H., to prepare for the Harvard Law School. Though he graduated with his class two years later, his eyesight had become in the meantime so impaired that he had to abandon further study. In 1874, Taylor began work as an apprentice machinist at the Enterprise Hydraulics Works, also known as Ferrell annnd Jones, which were partly owned by a family friend. A pump-manufacturing company in Philadelphia was learning the trades of pattern maker and machinist. In the latter year he joined the Midvale Steel Company, Philadelphia, as a common laborer. In the succeeding twelve years he not only rose to be chief engineer (1884), but also in 1883, by studying at night, obtained the degree of M.E. from Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, N. J.
His inventions during these years effecting improvements in machinery and manufacturing methods were many, the outstanding one being the design and construction of the largest successful steam hammer ever built in the United States.
His next decade at Midvale was spent in careful, scientific study of production and worker resentment problems. He wanted to increase output without having to drive the workers.
He had in addition worked out a comprehensive system of analysis, classification, and symbolization to be used in the study of every type of manufacturing organization. For five years he successfully applied his theory in a variety of establishments, administrative and sales departments as well as shops. In 1898 he was retained exclusively for that purpose by the Bethlehem Steel Company, Bethlehem, Pa. In the course of his work there he undertook, with J. Maunsel White, a study of the treatment of tool steel, which led to the discovery of the Taylor-White process of heat treatment of tool steel, yielding increased cutting capacities of 200 to 300 per cent. This process and the tools treated by it are now used in practically every machine shop of the world. While he was at Bethlehem, too, Taylor’s ideas regarding scientific management took more concrete form. Being convinced of the results that would be attained if these principles should be generally adopted throughout the industrial world, he resigned from the Bethlehem Steel Company in 1901, returned to Philadelphia, and devoted the remainder of his life to expounding these principles, giving his services free to anybody who was sincerely desirous of carrying out his methods. While he met with many unbelievers among both employers and employees, he lived to see his system widely applied. In 1911 the Society to Promote the Science of Management (after his death renamed the Taylor Society) was established by enthusiastic engineers and industrialists throughout the world to carry on his work.
In 1881 Taylor published an essay on metal cutting that generated a great deal of attention by engineers because of its rigorous examination of the individual steps involved in cutting metal. In 1895 he began to publish papers on schemes to increase worker incentive. He successfully combined these interests in a June 1903 presentation to 350 mechanical engineers in Saratoga, New York. This essay would stand as his most complete statement of scientific management. Martha Banta called the Saratoga essay, “one of the key documents shaping modern industrialization.” The success of this essay propelled Taylor to the presidency of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1906.
In 1911 he published “The Principles of Scientific Management and submitted to Congress a report entitled” ‘Taylor System’ of Shop Management”. He received about one hundred patents for various inventions during his lifetime. For his process of treating high speed tool steels he received a personal gold medal at the Paris exposition in 1900, and was awarded the Elliott Cresson gold medal that same year by the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia.
Taylor married Louise M. Spooner in 1884. In 1901, they adopted the three youngest of four children who had survived the murder-suicide of their parents, William and Anna Aiken, distant relatives of Taylor’s wife.
In 1881, Taylor and his brother-in-law, Clarence M. Clark, were the first doubles champions of the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association. Taylor was also a golfer, ice skater, and cricket player, and among his forty-five patents were ones for a scoop-handled tennis racket and a two-handed putter. In 1910, Taylor’s wife first manifested cyclic depression, which had a strong, adverse effect on him. During a lecture tour in Ohio in early 1915, Taylor caught a cold that developed into pneumonia; he died on March 21, 1915, after being hospitalized for nine days. He left an estate valued at approximately $1,000,000, none of which he had inherited. He was buried in Philadelphia and the epitaph on his tombstone reads “Father of Scientific Management.”